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Women & The Priesthood

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Given that women are excluded from the sacrament of Holy Orders, does this mean that in the Catholic Church there are seven sacraments for men and only six for women?  How is this fair? What are we to tell young women who feel a calling to ministry?

While some critics contend that Jesus only selected men as his apostles given the prejudices and chauvinistic conventions of his times, there are many instances where Jesus raised up the dignity of women and highlighted their call to witness and service.  How could Jesus extend spiritual liberation to us if he were not free to do as he pleased?  Indeed, the fact that he is a sign of contradiction that is betrayed and murdered is a testimonial of his freedom.  He would do what is right and is not subject to coercion.  He shows us the way to true freedom.  When it comes to his dealings with women, he cherishes them as disciples and prophets, but not as apostles or priests.

The first relationship that comes to mind is with his Mother.  She is a strong and courageous woman, who self-proclaims herself as the handmaid of the Lord.  If the tradition be true then she is learned of her faith due to her service as a child-servant in the temple.  Mary is present at the most important moments of salvation history:  at the annunciation, at the presentation in the temple, at the start of Christ’s public ministry in Cana, at his passion and death upon the Cross on Calvary and as a witness of the risen Lord among the eleven in the Upper Room.  There are also the two faithful sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  There is the repentant and faithful Mary Magdalene.  Indeed, there is the exceptional Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well and then testifies about him to her people.  Nevertheless, while Jesus is willing to break with the conventions of his day; he still only selects men to be his apostles or his first bishop-priests.  This is a pattern that would remain unbroken.  Indeed, the early councils (as at Nicea) would forbid the “laying on of hands” or ordination of women.

The Gnostic heretics ordained women but they also denied the incarnation.  They taught that Jesus only pretended to be a man and as one subject to death.  Since matter and the body were given a negative value, they did not perceive an issue with priestesses as an alternative to priests.  Catholic Christianity has always insisted that matter is not inherently evil and that it cannot be subtracted or ignored in the equation of redemption.  Our Lord joined himself to humanity in a male body.  This flesh was integral to his identity.  Indeed, we are promised restoration as ensouled bodies.

Gender is not an accidental to who we are.  We are not angels or pure spirits.  This truth is discerned in all the sacraments which are signified by form and matter.  Baptism requires water (matter) and the words that invoke the name of the Trinity (form).  The Eucharist requires bread and wine (matter)along with the words of consecration (form).  Ordination requires the intention to ordain priests with the laying on of hands (form) upon men (matter) called to ministry.  One could not baptize with beer.  One could not celebrate the Mass with milk and cookies.  One could not ordain a woman substituted for a man.

The pattern established by Jesus brought no derision upon the dignity of women but neither was it a pattern that the Church felt free to alter in any manner.  Given that our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ, then we must acknowledge that he knew what he was doing and that it served his purposes. Pope St. John Paul II in his 1994 encyclical Ordonatio Sacerdotalis, infallibly taught, once and for all, that the Catholic Church has no power whatsoever to ordain women to the priesthood. Many churchmen may very much want to ordain women.  But the Church is faithful to Christ, even if there should be matters we do not fully understand.  If we violated the pattern given by Christ, then the whole Church would be jeopardized.  The Episcopalians or Anglicans may be in this situation.  Orders in the Anglican Church were deemed null-and-void given a change in their prayer book after the break with Rome.  About a century passed where the intention to ordain priests who make sacrifice was edited from their rituals.  Apostolic succession was lost.  Some have argued that it might be partially restored today through the participation of former Catholics in their ranks and Orthodox bishops at their ordinations.  Unfortunately, even if there should be a partial restoration, it is further jeopardized by the presence of women presbyters and bishops.  If their ordination is counter to the will of Christ, then all the Anglicans are doing is playing dress up.  There are no true women priests (or rather, priestesses) in Christianity.  If the Catholic Church were to follow suit and attempt to ordain women, it would place the sacraments at stake.  If the priest is a sham then the Mass and absolution for sins would be forfeited as well.  The equation is simple:  no priesthood = no Eucharist = no Church.

The pattern of Jesus in selecting men and not women for the priesthood is normative for all ages.  Any change would require a new revelation from the Lord. Not even the pope has the authority to change this teaching and practice.

The one who would extend the Holy Spirit to the Church is himself filled with the Spirit.  His every step is aligned with divine providence.  His miraculous works and signs are enabled by the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit preserves the Church in the truth, especially about those most essential elements of faith.  The apostles are made the first of his ministers of a long-line throughout history, extending his proclamation of the Good News and realizing his saving works in the sacraments he instituted.  The male-only priesthood emerges as part of his plan for the legacy and life of the Church.  God does not fumble or make mistakes, even when the men chosen are sometimes less than saintly.

The first apostles were Jews but later Jews and Gentiles would be chosen.  Some of those chosen were married, but there was a growing emphasis upon celibacy from the beginning.  However, while the apostles and priests were married and single, Jew and Gentile, not one of the successors chosen would ever be a woman.  This is the case all the way to the present day.  This two-thousand-year consistency speaks volumes about the will of Christ upon the matter of ordination.  The tradition is clear and uninterrupted, century after century.

The Church also makes use of the bridal analogy that we see in Scripture, especially in the writings of St. Paul.  The substitution of a woman would destroy this ancient analogy and wrongly signify a lesbian relationship of a bride to a bride.  The priest stands at the altar “in the person of Christ” the groom and head of his bride, the Church.  The priest is a living and breathing icon or image of Christ.  Certain religious traditions demand that the priest have a beard, an “accidental” that makes self-evident the “substantial” element of his maleness which he shares with Jesus Christ.

Years ago I recall an interview where certain women who had undertaken theological training and had a background of church service, demanded that they be ordained priests.  They were angry and claimed the Church was deaf to their cries.  They said that they deserved to be priests— that they had earned it.  But such an attitude is counter to the truth about the priesthood.  Even men with such a mentality would probably best not be ordained.

The priesthood is not something that one might earn as in a social justice agenda.  The underlying meaning comes out at the foot washing by Jesus of his apostles.  Those who would lead the faith community must become the servants of all.  The priesthood is a gift that must be exploited in giving.  The priest lives for others.  He preaches God’s Word, not his own.  His very reason for living is the forgiveness of sins.  He makes present the Lord, both in his sacramental presence and in his saving activity.  Never in the history of the world had God given such authority to men as he did with his priesthood.  And yet, ironically, the priesthood is not about personal power and prestige.  It is about being the servant of all, literally a slave to honor God and to serve the needs of God’s people.  His servanthood is a fundamental imitation of Christ (Mark 10:45).

It would be wrong to say that there are seven sacraments for men and only six for women.  Most men and all women will never be ordained priests.  However, all the laity, men and women, are summoned to participate with their priest at Mass.  The celebrant makes possible the offering of the congregants at the liturgy.  Along with the gifts of bread and wine, believers join themselves to Christ— as grafted to him— as one oblation within the Lamb of God and accepted by the heavenly Father.  We pray, not only that bread and wine will become the flesh and blood of Christ, but that all of us may be transformed by grace into the likeness of Christ.  It is in this sense that the priesthood enables our own faith and our own oblations.  We are united in the Mass and the priest’s absolution insures our growth in holiness.  Our universal and most essential vocation is not to the priesthood but to holiness.  All of us are called to be saints.

A Priest’s Reflection During a Time of Crisis

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When I was a boy pondering a vocation some forty years ago, I was intrigued by a pamphlet from the Divine Word Missionaries.  It chronicled a lonely priest with his mule carrying his Mass and medical supplies as he journeyed to a remote mountain outpost.  It detailed a religious version of “Indiana Jones,” years before the movie, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  It grabbed my romantic imagination.  However, my poor mother grieved my leaving home and I settled on becoming an archdiocesan priest.  I do not regret the change in direction, especially now when “everything hurts” but sometimes I do wonder how different my life might have been.

I am amazed these days that we still have young men answering a call.  We have given them few heroes and one scandal after another.  It must surely be the movement of supernatural grace.

As I reflect upon my priesthood, I struggle with what has always been a dark shadow in my ministry.  I have never felt myself worthy.  No matter whether it were true or not, I always considered myself the worst of priests, a poor and weak example among a throng of virtuous saints in the faith.  We have preachers who can readily inspire and move hearts.  We have celebrants who both look the part and conduct the sacraments with great solemnity and seeming ease.  We have men who have apparently brushed aside distractions and are always about prayer and service.  When I look to myself, I see a man who forgets far more than he remembers.  My sermons are mediocre at best and my liturgical abilities come across as clumsy and amateurish.  I do not have much in the way of ambition and my attention easily strays.  I often talk to God not with typical or expected piety but much as one might irreverently talk to a friend sharing a beer.  Indeed, I recall telling God, “All I want to be is a humble priest” and hearing him in my heart respond, “Well you certainly have much about which to be humble.” I often imagine Mary cloaking me with her veil and telling me that she loves me even though I am the least of her sons.

I certainly recognize that sin in the life of any Christian represents a terrible duplicity where we are convicted as hypocrites.  What surprises me is how some of the clergy could have committed sins that literally cry out to heaven.  Self-destruction is truly awful; but hurting and tearing down others compounds the sin in a way that shatters the sacramental signification of the man in holy orders.  It places men into the mold of antichrists.  The current scandal has damaged the ability of bishops to govern the Church and of priests to proclaim the doctrinal and moral teachings which are constitutive of the Gospel.  Any hold we have upon God’s people is purely through their free consent.  There is no Medieval dictatorial religious state that can demand or force one to remain a Catholic or Christian.  Forfeit favor and good will— and churchmen will find themselves abandoned— with empty coffers and pews.  The direst effect may be the loss of souls.  When did we forget that our most pressing obligation is to realize the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls?

The Church is not a company where businessmen might do anything or everything to preserve revenue.  The Church is not a priestly boy’s club where members protect their leadership to the detriment of their flocks.  Our preoccupation should not gravitate to the powerful and the rich, but as in the ministry of Jesus to echo the universal call to salvation, albeit with a preferential option for the poor.  Clergy must also place the teachings of the faith ahead of their own pet ideas.  We are summoned to convert the world to Christ, not to compromise the kerygma of faith to the demands of subjective truth and a hostile secular modernity.  Indeed, our clergy and people alike must allow the courage of Christ to take precedence over their own passivity and fearfulness.  Much of the trouble we are facing is a crisis of holiness and belief.  Why would any churchman allow a known child-rapist an opportunity to bring harm to youth and families?  Why would we allow men who have disordered and perverse desires to minister and to threaten our people?  Fornication is a sin.  Adultery is a sin.  Homosexual acts constitute sin.  Perhaps many of the clergy have become soft upon such mortal sins because they too are perpetrators of such transgressions of the moral law?  There is no denying that there are also thieves, drunkards and gluttons among us.  But the sexual sins are the ones that most draw the ire of God’s people.  Indeed, I suspect the Lord, himself, is most troubled by these sins because they are a direct violation of a priest’s profound promise toward obedience and celibacy.  We are pledged to celibate love.  Do all our priests fully appreciate the meaning of their celibacy or do they simply experience it as a difficult discipline to endure?  It is not merely the avoidance of genital relations.  It is not the same as virginity and chastity.  Christian celibacy is a manner of self-donation and sacrificial loving.  It is the priest’s way of saying he belongs entirely to the Lord.  This love is expressed in worship, prayer, fidelity and service.  It is factored into everything he is about; it is the manner through which the good priest repeatedly says, to the Lord and to his people, “I love you.”  The priest prays his breviary— I love you.  The priest celebrates Mass— I love you.  The priest helps in outreach to the poor— I love you.  The priest preaches and teaches— I love you.  The good priest is consumed within his pledge of celibate love.  It is within this obedient and giving celibacy that the priest finds holiness in Christ.  The current scandals are not the fault of celibacy.  The answer would not be a married clergy.  The solution would be in loving fidelity to the priestly mission and to the truth.  The priest or bishop is not the master of the faith community, but its most profound servant.

Admittedly there are intimate and delicate matters difficult to speak about; so much so that they are often left outside of public deliberations.  Priests are men and they live in a world where the custody of the eyes is very difficult.  Priests need to earnestly defend their celibacy, taking threats seriously. Too many men and women probably excuse the habit of masturbation as part of a false contemporary enlightenment.  It should always be voiced in Confession; indeed, those elements that feed the sin need purification from the lives of God’s people, particularly from those called as priests.  Chief among the sinful contributing factors is the danger of pornography which is easily accessed and has taken upon itself epidemic proportions in modern society. It has even infected marriages where couples commit virtual adultery and then substitute sexual shenanigans other than the prescribed marital act. Pleasure is substituted for true fidelity and companionship with each other in Christ.  It is among the devil’s deceits that such secret sins do no real harm or necessarily contribute to a person’s movement into adulthood. While many contemporary psychologists would disagree, in truth, the man (or woman) in bondage to pornography and masturbation suffer a stunted emotional and spiritual maturation; they are caught within a juvenile self-absorption that inhibits an integrated sexual identity as a person able to fully realize his (or her) capacity to interact with others in love and service.

Turning toward the Lord, the priest must renounce the seductions of the world.  The priest’s hands are made for the chalice and host.  His hands render blessing and absolution.  The priest’s eyes should look at every person as a child of God.  He must never forget his spiritual fatherhood— even toward those who have ruined themselves by lust and exploitation.  The priest’s body is not made for pleasure but for sacerdotal sacrifice.  His association with Christ draws him inevitably toward the passion and crucifixion.

Many priests feel increasing estranged from those they serve.  This does not help matters.  He has sacrificed much to be a priest and it often seems that many if not most people really do not care.  Increasingly, while there is little praise, there is no shortage of rebuke or even mockery.  That is why efforts like those by the Knights of Columbus espousing solidarity with bishops and priests are so very important.  The laity should not be uncritical; they have a right to good and holy priests.  It is in this vein that God’s people should never hesitate to pray for their priests.  We must not allow the scandals and accompanying anger to destroy this important component to the inner life of the Church.  The priest does not pray alone.  According to our station in life, we pray for each other.  We should reject the false demarcations of the People of God as either an institutional Church or the Church in the pews.  The Church is one— she is a family, even if sometimes sinful in her members and dysfunctional in her practical relationships.

154250010567750063The definition of a priest is one who renders sacrifice to his deity.   The Catholic priest makes his oblation as the principal worship of the Lord.  He makes it both for himself and for others. Christ is the great high priest.  Those ordained share in his priesthood where Jesus is both priest and victim.  The priest at the altar is one with Christ (the head of the Church) who dies so that we might live.  He atones for sin and heals the rift between heaven and earth.  Jesus offers his own blood and dies once and for all.  The mystery of his oblation is made present in our liturgy, albeit in a clean or unbloody manner.  The only thing missing from Christ’s historical sacrifice is our participation. The Mass allows us to return to that one-time offering where we (grafted to Christ) can offer ourselves to the heavenly Father as an acceptable oblation.

Just as the gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the risen body and blood of Christ; so too, are we beseeching the Lord to change us ever more and more into the likeness of God’s Son.

The efficacy of the sacraments is assured even if the priest is in mortal sin and a terrible reprobate.   However, this does not mean that the sacraments are still all that they should be.  The movement of grace is damaged by poor witness.  People disillusioned by their ministers can close their hearts and minds to God.  They may even walk away from the sacraments entirely.  The priest stands convicted at the altar of sacrifice.  As with the communicants, we must be properly disposed to what the sacraments entail.  That is why many of us are concerned about inviting everyone to the altar so as to receive the Eucharist.  The sacrament that heals and saves can also bring condemnation to those in mortal sin.

What does it mean to receive the bread of life if one is an active enabler of the culture of death?  Too many feign Catholicity within the church doors and then once outside become the chief advocates in the public forum for the death of unwanted unborn children.

What does it mean to partake from the nuptial banquet table of Christ and his bride the Church when one is living in violation of his or her own marriage vows?  Christ rejects divorce and demands that marriage between men and women reflect fidelity within the Church.  Are we witnesses to his promise or do we substitute our broken promises instead?

Currently there is also a great debate about the status of active homosexuals in the Church.  Nevertheless, priests, bishops and even popes do not stand above Sacred Scripture but rather below as servants of the Word.  What does the Word say?  We read in Paul’s epistle to Timothy:

“We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Along with the concern that many of us have about welcoming pro-abortionists, adulterers and active homosexuals to take Holy Communion; the priest must also focus upon his own status before almighty God.  Is the one offering the sacrament of salvation to others bringing down judgment upon himself by celebrating the Mass unworthily? How is it that we can become comfortable with the prospect of priests standing at our altars while in mortal sin or not truly believing?

Christians in the early days of the faith were warned not to take part in the food offerings from pagan sacrifices.  Unlike the sacrifices of the Jewish temple or that of the Eucharist, these oblations to false gods were deemed as poisoned food given to demons.  It was customary in such sacrifices that a third was burned and given to the so-called deity, a third went to the priests (even the pagan ones) and a third was given to the poor.  Believers were warned against taking this tainted food.

While the Eucharist, by comparison, is all holy since Christ is holy, the liturgy can be polluted or corrupted by priests in mortal sin or who are closet atheists or who fail to give due  diligence about what they celebrate.   It does not matter so much as to what language or anaphora (eucharistic prayer) is used as long as the priest is one with the Church and faithful in the rubrics of the celebration.  He must be attentive to what he is doing and that care begins with himself.  The ordained priest should feel humbled by his role.  His priesthood compliments and makes possible the operation of the laity’s baptismal priesthood.  A basic symbolism of Catholic sacraments, centered upon the paschal mystery, is that we must die with Christ if we hope to live with him.  The priest’s celibate love is subsumed into this profound mystery.  When the priest processes to the altar, he should be fully aware and prepared for both Christ’s sacrifice and his own— he is Jesus Christ entering Jerusalem— he is coming to the altar to die.

The Low Regard for Anglican Orders

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“The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.” Pope Leo XIII had the same verdict about Anglican orders back in 1896 in the papal bull “Apostolicae curae.”

VOCATIONAL ASIDES: Do You Have A Story?

A number of years ago (January of 2008), when I posted a few reflections about the priesthood and celibate love, I was almost immediately bombarded by the stories and comments of others, particularly those with negative experiences.  I was taken aback by both the pain and the dissent.  There was also anger against me— as if I had no right to be happy or satisfied with my priesthood and celibacy.  There were three stories in particular that I shared with my blog readers and to which there was additional interaction.  The initial stories came from Jim, Becky and Thomas.

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Artwork by the cartoonist Ian Baker.

Jim’s Story

I studied to be a priest. But there was a special girl that haunted my day dreams and my night fantasies. The rector said to give it time and I did. But, after a few years I found it unbearable. I missed Sharon too much. I saw her during the summers and even that was forbidden. We tried not to call it dates even though we knew they were. She was my best friend. We prayed the rosary and even the breviary together. She missed me and yet tried her best to support me in a vocation I thought I had. Nevertheless, I never dreamed about saying Mass or hearing Confessions. All I thought about was holding Sharon’s hand and looking into her eyes.

One day I said I had endured enough. It was not for me. I raced over to Sharon’s house crying. I told her that if I had any vocation, it was with her and that I was leaving the seminary. She fell into my arms and we shared the first passionate kiss either of us had ever known.

Becky’s Story

I loved Joe. I gave more to Joe than a single girl should ever do. He said he loved me but later I found him with another girl. Instead of saying he was sorry, he laughed at me. I was so hurt and angry. And yet, I was surprised when my world did not fall apart. I had thought about being a religious sister, but my relationship with Joe held me back. I went on a discernment retreat and while at prayer became convinced that there was another lover calling me, Jesus.

I cannot say that I have totally forgotten Joe, but I cry no more and know a joy beyond words.

Thomas’ Story

The rector told us that when we heard our names called by the bishop at ordination, we could take for granted that we had a vocation. He said to brush aside all doubts. In any case, it was the 1960’s and rumors were flying that celibacy would very soon be made optional. We got ordained and then nothing changed. I tried to be patient but then classmates started leaving the priesthood and I felt increasingly alone. Then I met Shirley.

Sexual intimacy and marriage was something I often thought about and heard from others, but had never known. Now I could put a face on my desires as a man. Shirley and I did not mean to fall in love, it just happened. I did not want to abandon ministry and yet it looked more and more like the discipline about celibacy would never change. Shirley pressed me that if we waited too long, we could never have a family. But if I left the priesthood, it would break my mother’s heart. I just could not get myself to do it. Shirley never really forgave me and when she married someone else a few years later she sent me a picture of them. On the back she wrote, “This could have been you!” Another man holds her now. Another man shares kisses with her. I have to live with that and the price of my priesthood.

My Assessment of the Three Testimonials

Jim, there is no blame for a guy who went to seminary and eventually discerned that he did not have a religious vocation. The problem is when guys get ordained and then have second thoughts.

Becky, I am glad that you hear a calling to a religious vocation as a bride of Christ. Of course, one should make sure that the calling is genuine and not just something on the rebound. A religious vocation is not our running away from someone or something but a drawing a closer to someone, our Lord.

Thomas, I am not sure what to say? You should not feel sorry for yourself and neither should you feel remorse about your priesthood. Further, the good of your vocation is not something to be preserved merely because of appearances or even because of the potential scandal and hurt to others, including parents. You made a promise to God and even if priests in the future should be able to get married; there is no reason to expect that anything about a change in discipline would be retroactive. Our celibacy is a great gift and it is permanent. Thank God for it. Be a happy priest!

Does anyone else out there have a brief story to tell?  The invitation was taken up by Chuck and the so-called Reverend Tina.

Chuck’s Story

If you really wanted people to share their vocation stories then you would stop being so judgmental and criticizing everyone who shares their stories and views! You and your friends have no right to judge and condemn priests and nuns who left ministry for marriage.

I met Aggie when she was a senior at an all-girls’ high school. I was a young priest and taught math. I fell for her at first sight. We tried to cool matters but we were not robots like you— but passionate flesh-and-blood people. I told the pastor. The bishop tried to talk me out of leaving. But I could not live without her and no one was going to convince me otherwise. When she turned 18, we moved in together and the rest is history. We have three children, two girls and a boy. Would you tell them that they had no right to be conceived or born? How can a man pledge perpetual celibacy when he has yet to meet the girl of his dreams? It is crazy and unnatural. It is no wonder that the homosexuals have taken over the priesthood!

As for being married to the Church, that is utter nonsense! You can’t go to bed with the Church! You can’t hold her naked warm body against your own! You can’t share your dreams with her or even share an orgasm with her. A man, a real man, wants a woman to love. He needs to feel her body and to become one flesh with her!

You know nothing! You are a poor fool left out in the cold! There is nothing like loving a woman and all your analogies fall short. It is about entwined bodies, legs, breasts, lips, arms and hands. It is awkward and yet beautiful. It is sacred and messy.

Despite the twisted minds and morals of so many in the Church, there is nothing sinful or wicked about sexuality. I could still be a priest and have my Aggie, if only sanity and common-sense ruled. Unfortunately, it does not. The men who leave such a corrupted woman-hating priesthood are not to be pitied but praised and imitated.

Tina’s Story

I am going to tell you a story that I have kept absolutely secret until now.

I am 42 years old and have been a Roman Catholic priest since I was 26 years of age. I went to a liberal seminary in the Northeast US. My grades were exceptional and I got along well with everyone. Currently I am the pastor of a small parish and also do regular hospital ministry. The parish is thriving and the people feel that they are being well cared for. So far, there is nothing unusual, but here is the punch: I am a woman and for the last ten years have been married, albeit only in a ceremony conducted by a Unitarian minister.

How could this be? My twin brother took the necessary physicals prior to acceptance into the seminary. My own female features are slight and I wear a slight restraint around my breasts. I am thin and small. My hair is cut short, like that of a man. I was careful of the showers and in the bathroom during the seminary formation. No one caught on. We had private rooms, so I did not have to worry about a roommate finding out and blabbing.

I received acolyte, lector, my candidacy and eventually ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. I hanged out with the guys who were a bit effeminate, maybe gay, and no one was the wiser. After ordination, I even worked in the chancery for a time.

I became a bit lonely as the years passed and began to live a double life. I would go out for a couple of days, put on a wig and dress and started dating. That is how I met Phil. He knows and keeps my secret. We always said that if I became pregnant I would end the charade, but I guess between my age and regular birth control use, babies were not meant to be.

There you have it, both a woman and a married priest, all in one! None of it makes any difference. My work is as good as or even better than that of any celibate man.

My Assessment of These Two Additional Testimonials

Chuck, your anger against me and venom against the Church tells me that you still have a lot of unresolved issues and resentments.  I will try not to take it personally, but I would urge you to reconcile with the faith (even if on the pew side of the Church) and to find genuine peace.

As for Tina, sorry, I do not believe you. Yes, you heard me right; I am calling you a liar to your face. I bet you are not a priest, maybe you are not even a woman? There is no way that such a thing could ever happen. Given the years of formation and the close proximity of the men, you would quickly be found out. I admit it makes for a sensational story, but a story is all it is. No doubt the fake legend of Pope Joan is very much fueling your imagination. What are you really, a wannabee woman priest? Are you a female minister who wishes she was more? Are you an atheist fellow seeking to further ridicule the Church and the priesthood? Come on— come clean— stop telling us tall tales.

Debbie’s Comments

I only have a quick comment. I was unaware that they were talking about ending the celibacy requirement in the 1960’s. Nevertheless, I priest I know recently said that if my son were discerning, there was still the possibility that he could get married someday. Does the rumor ever end? I wonder how many still think that change is coming soon.

Karl’s Comments

A celibate, faithful priesthood most reflects its inspiration, Jesus.

As a consequence of my divorce I have lived a celibate life and have concluded that a married priest has too divided a set of obligations. Not that this is wrong or impossible but my opinion has been reinforced.

A priest who leaves his vocation is no different than my wife who is an adulterer. It is scandalous. They should repent and return to an appropriate ministry, if that is allowed. It is the honorable thing to do.

Every day in my line of work I engage many women, single and married who are attractive on many levels, including beauty; but a vow is a vow and it can be lived grudgingly or it can be accepted and be an opportunity, not always but sometimes. It will never be such if it is kept in hatred.

The priest who has invited these comments is not one that I would classify as judgmental.  I would describe him as faithful to his Church and its tenets.

Debra’s Comments

When I was a child in the 1960’s, you could never tell your parents about a “funny” priest, brother or nun” without getting slapped.

I used to think as a child that they were given a grace that made them “almost perfect” and so I was repeatedly surprised when I saw Father So-and-So drunk or rude or swearing or acting racist. I was caught off-guard. Of course, this fueled my later “Catholic in name only” teen years. When I became more mature, I realized we were all human and returned to Church practice.  Some priests are more imperfect than others.  I decided to support the Church in whole and to pick the parish where I wanted to attend. My faith is in Jesus, not a particular priest or pastor. Priests and nuns should be respected, supported and loved.  But we should not tolerate bad acts from them.  They need lots and lots of prayers.

Mary’s Comments

Whoever questions celibacy or the martyrdom required of priesthood has not met Jesus. When one meets Jesus, one is called to true heroism. Priesthood is not natural – it is supernatural. Priests can change the world.

Dawn’s Comments

The priesthood is “supernatural”…that sounds very beautiful… almost too good to be true. It is sad that most priests fall far short of it. I am not just talking about them giving into sexual temptations, but also about the “not so nice” side of their personalities.

Priests are flesh and blood men. When ordained do their natural inclinations and desires miraculously fall by the wayside? No, such is not the case.  Yes, God is supposed to give them this supernatural grace to resist their own humanness; and yet, they are still human. The devil will never cease to try and undo a priest. They get tired, cranky, bored, and at times almost apathetic. Many of us have experienced this in the priests we have known.  It is so obvious that many have become complacent and simply go through the motions.

I had a priest tell me in the confessional that I was “unlovable” and that I deserved to be treated badly by my husband. Yes, he said this after I poured out my heart out upon learning that a divorce was pending. I have been “dismissed” by more than one priest when seeking regular counseling. I was told to get professional help when I was really seeking spiritual guidance. My nephew who worked in different parishes as a music director was shocked to hear the awful language coming from the pastor’s mouth. Yes I mean the “F” word. Another pastor pushed him out of his job by being downright mean and nasty to him, picking apart his every effort at directing the choir and selecting sacred music.

Many priests of Jesus Christ fall way short of modeling him as they are called to do. True, perhaps a few bad apples do not spoil the whole bunch; but we must try to stop putting them on some sort of pedestal from which as mere humans they are eventually destined to fall.

I for one will never abandon the one true Church of Jesus Christ because of the poor witness of priests I have unfortunately encountered. We must pray for holy priests— that they will remain strong, pure and steadfast in their promises made before God. One thing we should never do is crucify them for falling. We are all broken creatures and given to a wounded nature. Let us continue to pray for and love our priests. Let us forgive those who have disappointed or hurt us in any way. But also let us not put them on the same supernatural level as our Lord.  If we do then we are setting them up to fall from such heights.

Thomas’ Comments

Marriages fail and the Church offers annulments to help people who want to love and live again. If such is the case for them, then how can we be judgmental against priests who want to get married?

Priests are human, too. They are not cold and heartless machines. They are flesh-and-blood men with all the strengths and weaknesses of all men. They are not supermen!

We have a Church where gays and pencil-pushing eunuchs seek to manipulate heterosexual men with normal drives and needs with analogies of a spiritual marriage with the Church and with fear of punishment and censure. They talk about the grace of celibacy as if it is a drug to nullify sexual longing and the need for intimacy. Men are humanized by women. Relationships with women allow men to become adults.

But, we do not want adults, do we? Adults talk back and we want boys who will behave! The Church forces its priests to remain as children, and yet they live in the bodies of adult men. Pedophiles and pederasts are able to sneak into the priesthood because formation programs leave men generally at the maturation of twelve year olds. They relate to children because psychologically the hierarchy wants them to remain in the Peter Pan mode of stilted development.

When a priest messes with a woman, more so than not, she is the one who seduced him. Don’t get me wrong, she need not play the seductress. All it takes is a normal loving woman to knock down the priest’s shaky house of cards. Priests are taught to see women as a threat to their celibacy. They are told to stay away from them and not to have close female friends. If he is caught having dinner alone with a woman or, God forbid, gives a woman a kiss, the fishbowl gossips spread the alarm and eventually the bishop punishes the man. How dare you act like a normal man! You are Church property! You belong to us, body, soul and genitals! You are to have no views but those ideas promoted by the Church! Do not talk politics because the Church will be sued and forfeit its tax exemption! Do not even suggest that the Church could be wrong, or else! You will be silenced! You will be transferred! Okay, you caught Father So-N-So with another clergyman in a compromising situation— tell no one or you will be sorry! Okay, we had to move Father Juvenile again because he got too close to the kiddies— tell no one or you will be sorry! Okay, you were hauled into court— keep your mouth shut and we will reward you with a monsignor title when you are released! Remember, canon law allows the priest to be punished for causing scandal, so don’t do it! Stay away from Susie and keep your mouth shut! Homosexuals we can handle, but not abandoned women and crying fatherless babies! Are you sure you are heterosexual? Things would be so much easier only if, well, only if.

If celibacy were optional, so much of this scenario would change. There would be a new springtime in terms of the dynamics of ministry in the Church.

Billy’s Comments

Given your history of rigidity on such issues, I am surprised that you allowed Chuck’s words to stand without some sort of rebuttal.  Did you take his challenge about censorship seriously? Let me shake the boat some more.

Keeping promises is one thing, but the negative stereotyping of a whole people is something else. I am sick and tired of homophobes saying that there are too many gay priests or that gay men should be kept out of the priesthood. How dare anyone hold such prejudices and still claim to be a Christian!

Is there anything wrong with a gay caste for the priesthood? After all, the Church does not want gay men to be active anyway. It would seem that those willing to be celibate or at least discrete among each other would be the best way to go. There is no longing for old girlfriends or any seeking to satisfy with other appetites the loss of heterosexual sexual intimacy and pleasure.

Fat priests overeat to make up for their sexual repression. Other clergy drink heavily. Are they being true to their celibacy? No! But they are quickly excused. They are also quick to condemn others, even as they are blind to their own transgressions!

Most homosexuals are not pedophiles or pederasts. Indeed, I suspect there are far more heterosexual abusers in the ranks of the clergy. But, they may be better at hiding their scandalous acts. I heard the one case where a priest married a young girl as soon as legality permitted. We can readily presume that the so-called romance had started well into the past. He covered up his crime by making her his wife. Seminaries should give a preference to gay men. They are the most likely to flourish in an all-male environment and will probably remain in the priesthood with greater numbers than men pining away about breasts and vaginas.

It is also true, at least culturally, that gay men have better musical and aesthetic tastes than straights. Most of my friends among the Latin traditionalists are gay. When it comes to dress up, smells and bells, tassels and cloaks, it takes a gay man to do things right. Ritual and chant is like dance and song. The liturgy is the greatest drama. From Broadway to the Vatican, there are thousands of gay men doing what they do best.

So, come on guys, let’s get with it. The priesthood is our playground and the Church is our stage!

Patricia’s Comments

If we were only living for this world then Billy and Chuck scored big points in this discussion!  If there be all there is, then go for it!  Have gay sex! Use contraception! Try to do it all and split your time and dedication between marriage and a church vocation! Have 1.5 children, keep your career, and maintain your personal time and space— sacrifice as little as you possible can! If that is all you “think” and “feel” will make you happy then surrender yourself to your strongest urges.

On the other hand, if Jesus really rose from the dead, left an authoritative teaching authority, gave us commandments and reminded us that this life is an eye-blink compared to eternity; well, then, we will one day have to pay the piper.  I would like to thank good priests for witnessing not only with their preaching but with their celibacy.  They are signs in their persons of another world with a different set of values— forsaking earthly pleasures for the joys of eternity.

Thank God, for the genuine Christian witness of priests and faithful lay Catholics. Embracing our crosses can bring inestimable joy. Sacrifices given out of love will be rewarded and usher forth lasting joy. As a mother I know that my sacrifices bring contentment and happiness when I look at my children. The priests have peace and joy in sacrificing for the flocks— the family of God.

The priesthood is a vocation, not a career. By all means, do not enter it if you cannot respect the beauty of Church teachings and discipline. Everyone is welcome to hang around, to learn and to try to understand; but it is not a do-it-yourself religion. That’s pop culture, folks.

My Quick Closing Comments

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals suffer from a severe sexual disorientation and as such, should neither be ordained nor function as priests. However, everyone should be treated with compassion and justice.

A man can be married to the Church. His love for Jesus and the flock should be all-consuming!

There is my two cents!

Bishop Markus Büchel

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Pope Emeritus Benedict affirmed that Pope John Paul II’s teaching against women priests was both authoritative and infallible. But Bishop Markus Büchel is calling for profound reforms in the Catholic Church. The bishop of the diocese of St. Gallen expressed public support for the ordination of women priests. He said, “We have to look for steps leading to it.” “I would imagine that the women’s diaconate could be just such a step.” He recently attended a secret conference with Cardinal Marx on how to push their so-called reforms regarding the family. The dissenters must feel that a new spring has returned for them.

Schweizer Bischof für Frauen als Priesterinnen

Letter to the Editor: The Gender of Priests

Msgr. William Awalt would often become frustrated with articles in The Washington Post.  When they refused to print his letters to the editor he would seek to have them printed in The Catholic Standard.

June 5, 1994

Since The Washington Post doesn’t generally print rebuttals to their articles that show egg on their face, our only resort is our own paper.

On Sunday (Outlook, June 5, C-1) a Gary Wills, whom they say is Catholic – he may be, a logician he is not, tries to take exception to Pope John Paul’s letter to the priesthood, calling for men only to be priests. Taking only one sentence from the whole letter as being the reason why John Paul is wrong he tries to establish a principle that doesn’t apply to John Paul’s teaching. Wills says since all the twelve apostles were Jewish, only Jews should be ordained priests. Gary, the Pope is talking about genders IN PERSONA CHRISTI, not nationalities. By Wills’ “logic,” since only Jews were the chosen people that would leave Greeks, Indonesians, Chinese, as non-qualifiers. Wills is mixing apples and oranges.

The insulting cartoon in The Post accompanying Wills’ letter doesn’t save the irrationality of the article.

Rev. Msgr. William J. Awalt
Pastor, St. Ann’s Parish
Washington, DC

Faith Challenged By Scripture

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A person who is struggling with faith wrote the following:

I was raised “catholic” but now I am considering leaving “catholicism” along with belief in “god.” I honestly cannot come to believe in “god” anymore. I used to be such a fervent believer in him but I have come to the realization that I no longer believe in him. The more I read the “bible” and verses like the ones below the more I become disillusioned with Christianity.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 / Genesis 38:8-10 / Deuteronomy 21:18-21 / Exodus 35:2 / Leviticus 20:13 / Isaiah 13:13-16 / Exodus 21:20-21 / 1 Timothy 2:11-12 / Colossians 3:22-23 / Luke 14:26 / Deuteronomy 22:13-21 / Isaiah 40:8

This does not seem like the “word of god” to me— of a being who is supposed to be all knowing and perfect. Rather it is the work of an individual with a primitive way of thinking. Many times I tried to convince myself that the “god” of the Old Testament was different but sadly that is not the case since most Christians believe that “god” is eternally unchanging as is expected of a perfect ‘know it all’ being. I have many more problems with the “bible,” including inconsistencies with history and science. I also don’t like the fact that everything in the “bible” has to be watered down especially the negative portions. Why can’t I just read it for what it is, why does it have to be read metaphorically. When Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves I understood the message loud and clear. So why are other portions, which are just so ridiculous, have to be read symbolically or metaphorically? I honestly cannot believe in “god” anymore. I tried but I just can’t bring myself to honestly and sincerely believe anymore. I don’t consider myself an evil person but the more “scripture” I read the less I believe.

Here is my response:

First, the Bible is not dictated word for word in a manner that invalidates the learning and life experiences of the human authors. The nature of the instruments (as human beings) has to be respected. Anything more controlling would be a form of possession, and that devilish business undermines human dignity. We are men and women, not pencils. The light of God’s truth shines through but as through the prism of the human condition. We see this ultimately with the incarnation and the one who is the Light of the World. Consequently, the coarseness and cruelty that upsets us in the Old Testament says more about mankind and sin than it does about God. The passion and death of Jesus is his confrontation with such a mindset. What was tolerated before is now challenged so that it might be healed and perfected.

Second, we must acknowledge that the Bible was written by many authors, exhibiting many styles, over a great deal of time and in many places. The oldest books may go back as far as the 16th and 12th century BC. The Scriptures also contain many forms of literature: histories, speeches, prophecies, legal codes, parable stories and mythology, poetry and hymns, etc. One must understand what one is reading if it is to be interpreted correctly. Jesus gave us a Church so that the truths of faith might be faithfully transmitted without dilution or corruption. While it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, this same Spirit in the Church preserves the truth. The Holy Spirit also grants us the gift of faith. The Bible is not a manual on how to live your life. The Bible is not a science book. It is a library of books that chronicles God’s activity in salvation history and our response. You should not make the Bible out to be something it is not. If you want an easy listing of moral certainties then pick up the universal catechism of the Church.

God as a perfect Spirit is unchanging and has within himself all perfections: knowledge, power, goodness, holiness, eternal, etc. But God must communicate with us in time. All we know is change. One day we are a child and the next we look into the mirror and see wrinkles and white hair. God enters the human family: the Word becomes Flesh. He suffers and dies for you and me. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the Father. He lowers himself to our level so that we might better know and love him. While you like his words about love, you are ready to renounce Jesus as a divine Person and his real presence in the Eucharist. Why are you more willing to see mankind as a cosmic accident than as a providential creation with an eternal destiny? That is not much of a trade-off.

Old heresies often raise their ugly heads. Marcionism was a dualism insisting that the “harsh” and “bloodthirsty” deity of the Old Testament could not be the same as the “loving” Father of Jesus. This view was rightly condemned by the Church. Jesus is the long-promised Messiah and even our Lord says that “salvation comes through the Jews.”

I would like to say that man’s capacity to understand grows but I am often amazed at the depth of ignorance and error, even in the modern world. The deity of ISIS Islamic extremists is a throwback to the view of God as one of law over love, of forced conversions, and of espousing death to infidels. By contrast, the God of truth, justice and mercy is reflected in the courageous men and women who are tortured and beheaded for their Catholic faith and for the love of Jesus. While you reject God because your interpretation will allow no clash in models; the Christian martyrs witness to the truth with courage. They embrace in their agony what you throw away in your leisure.

Genesis 38:8-10

Then Judah said to Onan, “Have intercourse with your brother’s wife, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother’s line.” Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. What he did greatly offended the LORD, and the LORD took his life too.

Often cited against the sin of masturbation and/or coitus interruptus, the situation again reflects an ancient code (pagan and Jewish) about raising a child up for one’s dead brother. Onan has no problem with enjoying the sexual act, but his selfishness will not allow a child to be conceived. If there is no progeny then no inheritance will have to be shared with his brother’s family. While Christians do not follow this legal code, and would object to such an understanding of the marriage bed, we can see in the story a divine negative verdict against those who would separate the conjugal act from its natural fertility. In any case, Onan is disobedient to what he perceives as his obligation under the law. Disobedience always invokes a reckoning. Given that he acts against life, his life is demanded of him. Remember that God is the author of life. We belong to him. If he should demand our life, it is his right.

Exodus 21:20-21

When someone strikes his male or female slave with a rod so that the slave dies under his hand, the act shall certainly be avenged. 

If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

The ancient world kept slaves. These rules here were to make the masters of men accountable. While we disagree about such bondage, we can appreciate the yearning for justice. There is still slavery in certain parts of the world. The seed of freedom planted in the New Covenant would take a while to germinate and grow. Christians were urged to treat slaves as brothers and sisters in Christ. Later slavery was tolerated until that time that debts were paid off or savages were civilized and given the true faith. Popes condemned slavery in the 1600’s and yet it would remain an institution in the United States until 1865. Dissent is not something new, as today the full humanity of the unborn is compromised. It became ever clearer that in Christ all are given grace and regarded the same— Jew or Gentile, free or slave, man or woman— all possess a precious dignity. Freedom is our birthright as children of God and everyone has natural rights. Here is one of the clearest instances of the organic development of doctrine.

Exodus 35:2

On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy to you as the sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death.

This is part of the Decalogue, although later Jews and Christians would not have any part of a death threat. Ancient peoples often attached the death penalty to matters they wanted obeyed— Canaanites did this, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and of course, the Romans, etc. The preference would be to imitate God because we want to be like him or because we love him. This particular law also reflects the human condition. Men need rest just as they require work. This law would prevent men from being forced to labor without a day of rest where they could worship God and find their leisure. Today we have forgotten this and poor people are sometimes forced to work seven days a week to put food on their tables and to care for their families. We live in a world which no longer either loves God or fears him.

Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.

We should not get caught up with the death penalties enacted by the ancient peoples. While we find it abhorrent, the emphasis is on the accompanying value, not the censure. When you do not have jails and are desperate to keep an organized society, societies typically enact harsh measures. This proposition here comes as part of a much longer list, each with a similar penalty: occult worship (6), dishonoring parents (9), adultery (10), incest (11 & 12), and bestiality (15). Here the prohibition is against the sin of homosexuality. Are you upset because the Scriptures and the Church teaches against homosexuality? Catholicism would say it also conflicts with the natural law. We must love our disoriented brothers and sisters; but we cannot give our approbation for immoral behavior. Those who are truly homosexual are called to lives of celibate love and service. How do you feel about the other sins listed? They have their advocates just as homosexuality did. During my lifetime there has been a major paradigm shift. That which was almost universally regarded as abhorrent and criminalized is now esteemed by our secular humanistic society as a basic right. The Church cannot dismiss objective truths so easily or because of the changing fads and fashions of the day. Doctrine can develop, but a reversal here would be in stark conflict with what came before. The accidentals of faith can sometimes change, the substance cannot.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen to his father or mother, and will not listen to them even though they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders at the gate of his home city, where they shall say to the elders of the city, “This son of ours is a stubborn and rebellious fellow who will not listen to us; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all his fellow citizens shall stone him to death. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Again, note that we are not under the many Hebraic laws but saved by faith and the Lord’s gift of grace. These dictums do not apply to Christians. The ancient society to which they applied no longer exists. While capital punishment clashes with the Church’s ethic for life, what was it that the people of old were seeking to foster? First, this passage is not in reference to a small child but to an adult (man). Second, his rebelliousness is not over minor issues. He is self-preoccupied to the extent of neglecting his parents and the community. He is abusive and dangerous. The stakes were high, life and death. It may be that the threat of ultimate punishment turned many of these men around. The law here was connected to a religious society. They did not make a distinction between secular or civil law and religious tenets.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21

If a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, comes to dislike her, and accuses her of misconduct and slanders her by saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her I did not find evidence of her virginity,” the father and mother of the young woman shall take the evidence of her virginity and bring it to the elders at the city gate. There the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man in marriage, but he has come to dislike her, and now accuses her of misconduct, saying: ‘I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.’ But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity!” And they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the city. Then these city elders shall take the man and discipline him, and fine him one hundred silver shekels, which they shall give to the young woman’s father, because the man slandered a virgin in Israel. She shall remain his wife, and he may not divorce her as long as he lives. But if this charge is true, and evidence of the young woman’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the young woman to the entrance of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a shameful crime in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.

Do you not remember the story of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus challenged the angry crowd? He said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They all walked away. Jesus came to bring mercy, even when the woman was guilty. He also preached against divorce, something that is affirmed here. You wrongly get caught up in the graphic elements. All these things must now be viewed in light of Christ. How is it then that these elements of ancient Judaism would cause you to dismiss your faith in Jesus Christ? Either you have not thought this through, or this whole comment with citations is a ploy from a non-believer to ridicule the faith.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

When two men are fighting and the wife of one intervenes to save her husband from the blows of his opponent, if she stretches out her hand and seizes the latter by his genitals, you shall chop off her hand; show no pity.

And how often do you suppose this actually happened? The religious gravity is not cruelty but upon the gift of fertility and respect for manhood. Destruction of a person’s faculty in the transmission of human life was regarded as a serious crime. It robbed a man of his posterity and remembrance. Remember, the early Jews had a poor understanding of an afterlife. They placed the emphasis upon children and property. This is one of many civil laws that were not unique to the people called by God. It is merely an ancient legal code. God calls us from where we are with all our ignorance or sophistication. Notice the law that follows it forbids carrying different weights in your traveling bag, so that men might not cheat each other when scales are used in purchases. The code that proceeded about marriage would mandate marriage within a family to carry on a brother’s name and linage. As with the Mosaic code on divorce, this would conflict with Christ’s teachings on the nature of marriage. Jesus would speak about their hardness of hearts. God’s passive will tolerates certain weaknesses and sins because of the freedom he gives us. We are not ants or robots. Not everything in the Old Testament reflects God’s direct will. The Bible is not a manual or rule book. It is a chronicle of salvation history. You have to read it as such and place the emphasis upon Christ and the teachings of his Church. God shows us his face and his will over time. While the deposit of faith is now fixed, it develops through our reflection and deepening understanding.

Isaiah 13:13-16

For this I will make the heavens tremble and the earth shall be shaken from its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts on the day of his burning anger. Like a hunted gazelle, or a flock that no one gathers, they shall turn each to their own people and flee each to their own land. Everyone who is taken shall be run through; and everyone who is caught shall fall by the sword. Their infants shall be dashed to pieces in their sight; their houses shall be plundered and their wives ravished.

This is part of a collection of oracles from various sources that focus upon foreign nations. While God’s people were indeed guilty of barbarism (we even see this in the psalms), the point here is divine retribution and judgment. The emphasis is that death will overtake everyone. There was also the appreciation that this existence is messy. There is violence and death awaiting us in a fallen world. Our life belongs to the Lord. Because of sin, we deserve to die. Jesus would fail to come as this kind of military Messiah. Rather, he brought mercy and not the sword. However, at the final consummation, he will be the true Pantocrator— the Lord of Judgment. Those who love the Lord need not fear. Those who disobey him have every right to be afraid. It does not mean that God directly desires child murder and rape.

Isaiah 40:8

“The grass withers, the flower wilts, but the word of our God stands forever.”

What do you find objectionable about this? It means that God’s Word does not forfeit its binding force. God keeps his promises. Did you write the wrong citation?

It is at this stage that you turn your disdain to the New Testament. Are you really a Christian? Were you ever?

Luke 14:26

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

This is an example of Hebraic hyperbole. It is an artifact of language. There is no exclamation point for emphasis. Jesus does not mean that we should literally hate our parents and family. That would be absurd. Jesus uses similar hyperbole when he says let the dead bury the dead or to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. Jesus is actually saying that there is urgency to embracing the kingdom. Now is the appointed time. We should not delay or even allow familial relations to inhibit our acceptance of the Gospel. Jesus takes the family, our most prized human institution, and says that even that should not get in the way of following him. Note that Peter and Andrew left everything to follow Jesus. The boats would have to be used by other family members or friends for fishing. Jesus was making his apostles into fishers of men. It must also be said that in the early days of the Church, pagan families often opposed and tried to block the conversion of members. The words of our Lord would urge strength in the face to opposition and even betrayal.

Colossians 3:22-23

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but in simplicity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.

Paul did not invent the institution of slavery but Christianity was altering it. Master and slave have the same dignity. This must be measured with verse three: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.” Read God’s word in a contextual way. Often slaves had to work off just debts for their freedom. It was quite different from the tyranny of slavery in America. But as I said before, Paul’s words about our equality in Christ would eventually bring such subservience to an end. Here Paul is sharing his hierarchical view— one that still influences the constitution of Christ’s Church: wives subordinate to husbands (18), husbands love your wives (19), children obey your parents (20), and fathers do not provoke children (21). The mention of slavery falls within such a schema. We are all called to service. We are all servants or slaves of God. Even the Pope is called “the Servant of the Servants of God.” He is literally a slave for the Gospel and the Church. He lives not for himself, but for Christ and his people.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.

While it is doctrine that priests must be male, and I would cite this as apostolic evidence that such male leadership reflects the divine will, it probably refers to an immediate accidental about worship in the time of Paul. Not everything in Scripture and Tradition is unalterable doctrine. There are certain disciplines, even apostolic ones that can be abrogated. I think here about women’s dress or the mantilla veils that were once popular with women in church. Of course, today women are permitted to read the Old Testament and New Testament epistles in church. The citation here was principally concerning pagans or Gentiles who had recently converted. Women oracles and prophetesses (often possessed by demons) were a problem that Paul did not want to see translated to the churches. They would swoon, speak gibberish and cryptic remarks. Paul saw this as distracting from the truth of Christ. It may be that such women were seeking to wrestle authority away from the men who functioned as the legitimate shepherds.

You want a simplified or literal Bible and yet why should revelation be absolute baby talk? The things of God are far more complex than the inside of a car or computer. To reduce their repair manuals to what you would make the Bible would leave everything broken. It is past time to grow up. God’s Word is not broken, you are. We all are as sinners, me too. But in Jesus there is healing and salvation.